Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
A mutant screen was developed to isolate Arabidopsis thaliana mutants affected in the regulation of the nitrate assimilation pathway. A fusion between the tobacco Nii1 gene (that encodes a foliar nitrite reductase involved in nitrate assimilation) and the Gus reporter gene was introduced into A. thaliana, and shown to be properly regulated by nitrate. Moreover, β-glucuronidase (GUS) activity in the transgenic plants was essentially detected in the cotyledons and leaves, showing that the organ-specific expression of the tobacco Nii1 gene was retained in Arabidopsis. M2 plantlets derived from mutagenized seeds homozygous for the Nii-Gus fusion were screened by histochemical staining of whole plates for GUS activity after growth on nitrate or glutamine. About 250 progenies were screened, leading to the isolation of plants showing an enhanced or reduced staining compared to the control non-mutagenized plants. Several mutants were analyzed for the transmission of the phenotype to the M3 generation, as well as for levels of GUS or nitrite reductase activities or mRNA levels. A major problem encountered during the screening was the high background of false positives that reproducibly showed altered GUS histochemical staining compared to control plants and did not, however, display any changes in GUS activity levels. One interesting family of mutants was isolated that overexpressed GUS activity and Nii mRNA in the absence of nitrate. These mutants turned out to be cnx mutants impaired in the molybdenum cofactor biosynthesis that is necessary for nitrate reductase activity. These results may indicate that active nitrate reductase is necessary for a correct regulation of nitrate assimilation genes by nitrate.
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